Turkish opposition newspapers have furnished evidence that there is an imminent truce expected between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with the aim of winning the vote of the Kurds to correct the political trajectories in battles lost by the Turkish president, especially the municipal elections that saw the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidates losing in the largest cities such as Istanbul.
Öcalan’s recent message can be read in light of the evolution of the relationship between the regime and the Kurdish leader. He called for an end to the hunger strikes carried out by thousands of prisoners in Turkey in protest against the conditions of detention, stressing that hunger strikes had achieved their desired goal.
This announcement came after Öcalan was allowed to see his lawyers twice – on May 2 and May 22 – for the first time since 2011.
According to the pro-Kurdish, opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP), about 3,000 prisoners are carrying out hunger strikes in solidarity with HDP MP Leyla Guven, who has been on hunger strike since November 2018 in protest against the isolation imposed on Öcalan. Eight people have died in prison since the start of the strike.
According to HDP MP Ahmet Şık of Istanbul, the Turkish government allowing Öcalan’s lawyer to meet him and publishing his name without describing him as a terrorist leader for the first time in years reflects the authorities’ efforts to hold new talks with the Kurds, coinciding with the decision of the Supreme Elections Commission to cancel the local election results in Istanbul and have a re-run next month.
The Turkish president needs the Kurds in order for his party to win the Istanbul municipality leadership, Şık said, pointing out that the Kurds’ support Ekrem Imamoglu caused the defeat of Erdogan’s AKP, adding that there are more than one million Kurdish voters in Istanbul and no candidate can win the election without their votes. He believes that the ruling authority may do everything to break the opposition, stressing that the most basic demands of democracy must be met.
Observers have said there is a possibility that Erdogan will sit at the negotiating table with the Kurds in order to win the leadership of Istanbul. The AKP will do its best not to lose Istanbul this time, they pointed out, adding that it has started working to achieve this and is seeking to reap the votes of the Kurds.
Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül denied talk of a rapprochement between the regime and the HDP. “It has nothing to do with new peace negotiations between the Turkish government and the Kurds, but it is because of legal reasons,” he said, adding that it also has nothing to do with the re-election in Istanbul. Öcalan was barred from meeting his lawyers in the past because of a judicial decision, Gül said, pointing out that this decision was now canceled.
Regarding talk of the government studying a possible amnesty for Öcalan, Gül said, “This is in the hands of the parliament.”
In the same context, Öcalan’s lawyers warned that allowing them to meet with their client after a ban of eight years could be exploited for political purposes to win the votes of the Kurds in Istanbul after they voted for the opposition in the previous round. This has raised many questions about the desired goals of the truce, especially as it coincides with the preparation for the re-run election in Istanbul, which is scheduled to take place on June 23.